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The Jesuits

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 18 January 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order of priests who became known as “the school masters of Europe”. Founded in the 16th century by the soldier Ignatius Loyola, they became a major force throughout the world, from China to South America. “Give us a boy and we will return you a man, a citizen of his country and a child of God”, they declared. By the 17th century there were more than 500 schools established across Europe. Their ideas about a standardised curriculum and teaching became the basis for many education systems today.

They were also among the greatest patrons of art in early modern Europe, using murals and theatre to get their message across. To their enemies they were a sinister collective whose influence reached into the courts of kings. Their wealth and their adaptability to local customs abroad provoked suspicion, prompting their eventual suppression in the late 18th century. They were re-established in 1814 and now have more than twenty thousand members.

So why was education so important to the Jesuit movement? How much influence did they really have in the courts and colonies of Europe? And were they really at the heart of conspiracies to murder kings?

With Nigel Aston, Reader in Early Modern History at the University of Leicester;
Simon Ditchfield, Reader in History at the University of York; Dame Olwen Hufton, Emeritus Fellow of Merton College, Oxford.

  • Further Reading

    Detlev Auvermann & Anthony Payne, The Society of Jesus, 1548-1773. A catalogue of books by Jesuit authors and works relating to the Society of Jesus published between 1548, with the first printing of Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, and the suppression of the Society in 1773, with an introduction by Alastair Hamilton, (Bernard Quaritch Ltd, London, 2006)

    John W. O’Malley, S.J. & Gauvin Alexander Bailey eds., The Jesuits and the Arts 1540-1773, (Saint Joseph’s University Press, Philadelphia, 2005)

    John O’Malley, S.J, Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Steven J. Harris & T. Frank Kennedy, S.J. eds., The Jesuits II: cultures, sciences and the arts, 1540-1773, (University of Toronto Press, Toronto/Buffalo/London, 2006)

    Sabina Pavone (John P. Murphy, S.J. trans.), The Wily Jesuits and the Monita Secreta: the forged secret instructions of the Jesuits. A history and a translation of the Monita, (The Institute of Jesuit Sources, St Louis, 2005)

    Edmond C. Murphy, S.J. & Martin E. Palmer, S.J. (trans & ed.), The Spiritual Writings of Pierre Favre, (The Institute of Jesuit Sources, St Louis, 1996)

    John Patrick Donnelly, S.J. (trans. & ed.), Year by Year with the Early Jesuits (1537-1556). Selections from the “Chronicon” of Juan de Polanco S. J., (Institute of Jesuit Sources, St Louis, 2004)

  • .

    Claude Pavur, S.J. (trans & ed.), The Ratio Studiorum: the Official Plan for Jesuit Education, (The Institute of Jesuit Sources, St Louis, 2005)

    Edwards, Francis, The Jesuits in England: From 1580 to the Present Day (London, 1985)

    Northeast, C.M., The Parisian Jesuits and the Enlightenment, 1700-1762 (Oxford, 1991)

    Wright, Jonathan, The Jesuits. Missions, Myths and Histories (London, 2004)

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